Zica Virus Causes Ethical Crisis in South America

이다혜, 오수연l승인2016.03.02l수정2016.03.02 00:26l344호 3면

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  Newborn babies, with the symptoms of microcephaly, are rapidly increasing around the world. This is due to the spread of the ‘Zika’ virus. Microcephaly is a congenital malformation where the head and brain of a newborn infant is remarkably smaller than others, and is a terrible disease. It can result in seizures, dysphasia and learning disabilities, and can even cause hearing or sight loss.

  With the Rio Olympics in Brazil approaching, the seriousness of the Zika virus is rising. What is it about the Zika virus that is frightening the world? It is an infectious disease that is primarily transmitted through the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus. It is a type of Flavivirus which is similar to the virus that causes dengue fever. Once bitten by an infectious mosquito, minor symptoms such as a headache, muscle aches, and fever can show up about a week after the initial infection. People can easily treat the virus the same way they treat influenza, which is by getting plenty of rest and proper care.

  However, the virus is more serious when it infects a pregnant woman. If they are infected during the first trimester of the pregnancy, they risk giving birth to a baby with microcephaly. The newborn’s head would be no larger than 32cm, because the virus stunts the growth of the fetus’ brain. Therefore, being infected with the Zika virus is especially dangerous for the unborn child of a pregnant woman.

▲ A baby suffered from Microcephaly

  At the moment, there is no antibody to defend the fetus from the Zika virus, so it is difficult to overcome. As a solution, some people are voicing their opinion in favor of legalizing abortions for those infected and encouraging the use of birth control in order to ward off the number of children born with this unfortunate disability. In most Central and South American countries however, abortion is currently illegal and birth control is not widely distributed.

  In Central and South American countries, there is a high population of Catholics and as a result, abortion is illegal. Some countries make exceptions for women pregnant by rape, or when there is a low possibility of the fetus surviving. In this vein, experts are asserting that abortion should be legalized when the fetus is infected with the virus, because newborn babies with microcephaly have low survivability.

  The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed a representative from the ‘Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention’ to learn more about the Zica virus. The DKH learned that when a person is infected with the Zica virus, symptoms will begin to appear between 3 days to 2 weeks later. The main symptoms are not serious and include high fever, rash, arthralgia and bloodshot eyes. Moreover, the Zica virus also causes muscle pains, a headache, ophthalmalgia and vomiting. Symptoms normally last 3-7 days. However, when a pregnant woman is infected with the Zica virus, during the first trimester of her pregnancy, the fetus’s brain is impacted and does not grow properly. The result could be a child with microcephaly.

  Some experts argue that the survival rate of microcephalus’s is remarkably low. It is a neuro-developmental disorder, so the life expectancy of those who suffer from it is extremely low, but even if they do survive, the child’s brain function is dramatically decreased in comparison with healthy babies.

  In countries where the Zica virus appears, contraception is very important. Contraception, however, in rural area, is not a solid method of prevention, because of cultural reasons and even a lack of information about the disease. This means that rural areas are at high risk. This could cause a big problem in the future. For example, if most babies born with microcephaly are from rural areas they will have difficulty easily accessing treatment and support systems for disabled children.

  The Zica virus impacts pregnant women, but more importantly, her unborn child in savage manner.  Abortion could be an answer to curbing the proliferation of children born with microcephaly, but it also leads to many ethical and religious questions. Babies who suffer from microcephaly have smaller brains than normal babies, so they suffer from seizures, have difficulty walking and learning. Their hearing is impaired as well as their vision. This is a hard life for both parents and child to endure. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the dangers and prepare for it.

  Most countries in Central and South America are impacted by the Zica virus. As a result, many people are in danger, especially the unborn fetus of pregnant women. Some people assert the right to an abortion must be considered, however it is still illegal based on the ethics of most nations impacted by the virus. It is controversial therefore alternative measures to defeat the Zica virus are also needed. The world is in danger and if there is no alternative measure, people will live in fear that one day it will impact their family too. 


이다혜, 오수연  dankookherald@gmail.com
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